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Insights from Day One at ARF Re:Think 2014

The DGC team has been live from Advertising Research Foundation (ARF)  Re:Think conference in New York City this week, soaking up all of the intelligent conversations and insights being shared around analytics and insights.

Day One focused explicitly on consumer engagement and how to make better decisions across platforms. Here are some of our key learnings from the first day:

Carolyn Everson, VP of Marketing Solutions, Facebook (Photo Credit: Doug Goodman)

Mobile is now. Carolyn Everson, VP of Global Marketing Solutions at Facebook, admitted that even the largest social network in the world was caught off guard by the rise of mobile. But the reality is, that with over five billion phones currently in use, consumers are constantly on the go – and usually active on more than one device. More than one-third of those five billion people are using at least three or more devices in a given day, and 60 percent of consumers start a task on one device and end on another. So what’s the next step in mobile’s evolution? Personalization.

 

Peter Espersen, Head of Co-Creation, Content, and Campaigns, The LEGO Group (photo credit: Doug Goodman)

Peter Espersen, Head of Co-Creation, Content, and Campaigns, The LEGO Group (photo credit: Doug Goodman)

Understand your fans. Peter Espersen, head of co-creation at LEGO, shared how the brand sought to understand the fans, tap into their passion for LEGOs, and then in fact produce what the fans want. After several petitions, LEGO created several limited edition series, including the infamous DeLorean Time Machine from Back to the Future, a Minecraft series, and the very first fan-petitioned LEGO, the Shinkai 6500, a Japanese submarine. Espersen explained that no one would have seen the fan demand for Shinkai or Minecraft but, given that LEGO allowed its fans’ voices to be heard, it created what was wanted.

 

 

Keith Reinhard, DDB Worldwide (Photo Credit: Doug Goodman)

Keith Reinhard, Chairman Emeritus, DDB Worldwide (Photo Credit: Doug Goodman)

Insights can help create the story. When you leverage insights in the right way, you can tell the story the consumer actually wants to hear. That was the takeaway from ad legend Keith Reinhard, Chairman Emeritus of DDB Worldwide. Reinhard showed a famous State Farm ad from the 1960s, featuring the still-iconic “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” jingle, and a real State Farm insurance agent based in Hawaii. “The insight was that the hometown neighbor is always there, which led to the “Like a Good Neighbor,’” said Reinhard, “Consumers could get their own personal neighborhood State Farm agent.” The tagline is still used today.

 

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The conversation was positive and encouraged the audience to question how brands are engaging with consumers. Even if you’re doing something right, you can always look at new data or find another angle that resonates in a new way, generating more insightful campaigns and buzz.

Ten Seconds Or Less

SnapChat is like The Little Engine That Could. Its rivals pulled out all of the stops to buy it, duplicate it, replace it and eradicate it – yet the network is still popular.

What’s interesting about SnapChat is its perception, which, for lack of a better term, snaps back and forth in terms of good and bad press.  The early days of SnapChat led many to believe it’s purely an app for all kids to “sext.” And every few weeks, there’s some sort of SnapChat privacy story – various articles on how safe those snaps are (or aren’t,) an actual data breach, or how legal the content of snaps may be.  In a post-Snowden world, these types of privacy breaches would be a kiss of death. Yet the network continues to persevere for its users.

Last week, SnapChat’s founders were on the cover of Forbes’ 30 under 30 – among other things, sharing how Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg essentially bullied the founders to sell to him or face extinction through Facebook’s version of the app Poke. As we now know, Poke fizzled and SnapChat thrives.

Now the startup, like many other networks in the space, is looking to monetize through advertising.  Yet the network needs to find a genuine way to make these ads happen, with content that people actually want to see.  HBO, always one of the boundary pushers in new avenues for social advertising, launched a SnapChat account tied to its popular show “Girls.” The extension is perfect for the show, as one can easily imagine the characters attempting to decipher what their potential suitors are implying by snapping emojis of pandas and guns.

While many critics, professional and amateur, are quick to remind everyone that SnapChat’s founders each passed on more than $750 million in Zuckerberg’s buyout offer, the network’s popularity among users is as great as it’s even been.  It goes to show that a brand can overcome bad press and a potentially bad reputation by sticking to the company’s brand and messaging. Yet so far, SnapChat may need to work on its sincerity when accepting its flaws, and there have been more than a few instances recently.  One could chalk up this up to the brashness of Silicon Valley hotheads – call it growing pains. Finding your voice and credibility is not easily done in today’s hyper reactive world – particularly when there can be so much on the line – and minor stories can explode into “national scandals.” That’s not to say every brand can survive bad press; it requires buzz, a dedicated following and a little bit of luck – but it is indeed possible.

We’re looking forward to following SnapChat’s business evolution in the coming weeks and months.

Beyoncé: The Anti-PR, PR Machine

In a move that stunned just about everyone, Beyoncé surprised us last Friday with the (unanticipated) release of her fifth studio album, “Beyoncé” – announced in a video posted to Instagram. Free from the typical publicity machine surrounding new albums, “Beyoncé” seemed to come from the ether, straight from its star to her fans and complete with 14 songs and 17 accompanying videos. The beauty (and irony) of this unconventional “anti-PR” play is the PR success it became in only a matter of hours.

Claiming she’s “bored” with the usual processes and that “there’s so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans,” Bey uses a longer mini-documentary style video on her Facebook page to talk directly to supporters about her vision for the album. This genius approach is of course its own new PR strategy in and of itself, proving that immediacy and authenticity win the day in our “always-on” world. The numbers seem to agree. The album sparked 1.2 million tweets in the first 12 hours with influencers like Katy Perry weighing in: “Don’t talk to me today unless it’s about @Beyoncé THANX.” The team at DGC seems to agree too; we had listened to all 14 tracks twice by 11 a.m. on Friday (and an encore performance during Wine-O Friday later that day).

So what can brands take away from Beyoncé’s PR homerun?

  1. Be Real. By telling fans about the project directly in a video, showcasing home video footage and releasing all songs and videos in one fell swoop, Beyoncé sends the message that – even though she’s been a global pop sensation since her teen years – she’s still the everywoman. Just like you, she remembers the first time she saw MJ’s Thriller video. Just like you, she made goofy home movies with her besties. And just like you, she uses social media as her primary form of communication these days. Brands should take note; we live in an age of authenticity and consumers demand transparency.
  2. Give ‘em something to talk about. By not talking about the album via countless blogs and talk show interviews, Beyoncé balked the unconventional and gave people more to talk about. Successful brands keep people coming back by constantly giving their customers something new, something fresh. Something unexpected.
  1. Embrace multi-media. Beyoncé’s idea to create an album that goes beyond audio and includes a complementary visual experience is spot on. Not only does it position Beyoncé as a true artist — someone capable of creating a fully-baked concept — it gives fans more media elements to share, like and tweet. Content isn’t exactly a novel idea, but it’s important that the content entertains, enlightens or informs.

Facebook follows the trend and launches clickable hashtag

This Post comes from Melanie Seasons, Community Innovation Director at our sister agency Eulogy! London. Melanie covered the news of Facebook introducing the #hashtag, and how it can benefit brands. This post was originally shared via E!’s blog.

Facebook announced that it will launch a hashtag functionality, allowing users and brands to join in wider conversations and see trending topics around the globe.

Adding the “#” symbol in front of a word or phrase, will turn the text in to a hyperlink and bring up a separate feed of what other users are saying about the same topic.

This will be visible for all Facebook users and brands, even those that are not connected to a user or following a certain brand. There will be an option for users to opt out of the trending activity in the privacy settings, if they do not wish to join wider conversations.

The hashtag was originally launched on micro site, Twitter and is also present on Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, Tumblr and LinkedIn.

Unlike Twitter, the Facebook hashtag will not be available for brands to use as an advertising tool and pay for promoted trends or tweets. This could however, roll out in the future after users and brands become familiar with the new tool.

What are the plus points?

We think this could be a great opportunity for brands to join in natural conversations such as #Father’s Day or #Christmas and have their products seen by new customers. It could also open the doors for people to ‘like’ new brand pages while increasing engagement on statuses as people have a shared interest in the topics being discussed, so are more likely to interact. And from a storytelling point of view (so important for brands), it will hopefully keep users inside Facebook for longer as they explore trending topics and read news articles relating to their shared conversations.

What are the drawbacks?

There are potentially a few. Generally, any changes to Facebook are often met with scepticism. While it’s not a totally alien process, users do not associate the function with the platform. If promoted trends do launch on Facebook in the future, brands could face further criticism on their content appearing in personal news feeds and trending lists.

What do we think?

Criticisms aside, we think this is a great function for Facebook to introduce. Hashtags have become centric to social behaviour. Once the initial launch negativity wears off and users become more familiar with the action, it will be largely accepted and a great opportunity for brands to be seen organically and not hidden outside the main newsfeed.

What’s next? With Facebook finally joining the hashtag club, it can’t be too far away to see an aggregator that measures the volume of hashtags being used on all social platforms at any given time.

Grab a Hold of the Vine for Your PR

It’s been nearly five months since Vine was introduced as a free iOS app and since then it’s become one of the most downloaded applications in the Apple App Store. Vine, introduced by Twitter in 2012, enables users to create and post six-second video clips that can be shared on social networking channels like Twitter and Facebook. vine-app-hed-2013

The very idea of video creation is all about storytelling, while connecting and engaging viewers. But can you do that in only six seconds? Tribeca Film Festival founder Robert De Niro thinks so. In April, De Niro was asked about the effect of technology on the festival and filmmaking itself. He responded by calling Vine an “interesting thing,” and said:

“Six seconds of beginning, middle and end. I was just trying to time on my iPhone six seconds just to get a sense of what that is. It can actually be a long time.”

  • Vine in the News: News outlets are getting in the Vine action, too. In February, Tulin Saloglu, a columnist for Al-Monitor and a New York Times contributor, successfully used Vine to capture terrorist attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey. By posting the videos to her @turkeypulse Twitter feed, Daloglu’s films were one of the first attempts to use Vine for journalism purposes.
  • Vine + RyGos: Given Vine’s short form, its success in the world of memes is no surprise. Ryan Gosling Won’t Eat His Cereal went viral last week, propelling creator Ryan McHenry’s following on Vine from eight followers to more than 15,000 (McHenry also has nearly 4.000 followers on Twitter now—we’re curious to know what the figure was before #RGWEHC hit) and no doubt sparking ongoing spoon torment for RyGos.
  • Vine in the White House: Vine is also becoming political. On April 22, the White House joined the bandwagon, publishing its first Vine video through its official Twitter account by announcing the annual White House Science Fair.

As the app continues to gain momentum, we at DGC are cognizant of the need to begin leveraging Vine with our clients. When pitching media, Vine can be used to raise awareness of pending news in a fun, viral way—you can develop Vine videos to tease hints of potential news announcements to get media buzzing before a big launch. Since Vine only allows for six seconds of recorded footage, it caters to us PR pros looking to get a message across quickly and succinctly.

Vine can also help with clients’ social media channels like Twitter. For your next social contest, consider asking users to submit a Vine video, allowing you to grow your clients’ following by leveraging new and existing hashtags. You can even think about distributing a social media release with Vine videos embedded to give the campaign wider exposure and drive traffic.

Do you have more ideas on how Vine can be used by the PR industry? Let us know in the comments below!

SXSW 2013: Day 2 — Brand Fans, Yammer + Matthew McConaughey

DGC reporting live from day 2 at SXSWi 2013! The festival is in full gear, with early to mid-morning panels so packed lines were snaked around buildings and one-in, one-out policies were being enforced. We did manage to make a few sessions that boosted big names and big brands. Among them:

Brand Fans, the New Brand MarketersModerated by Mashable’s Todd Wasserman and featuring Facebook Creative Strategist Kevin Knight, PepsiCo’s Global Head of Digital Shiv Singh, and Frito-Lay’s Sr. Director of Brand Marketing Jen Saenz, this panel covered the rise of crowdsourcing, its merits, and how it’s disrupting traditional marketer/agency relationships.

PepsiCo has crowdsourced a number of brand initiatives, including Do Us A Flavor, a flavor naming and defining contest for Lay’s, and Crash the Super Bowl, a contest for user-generated commercials for Doritos.

Why crowdsource?  It’s a way to engage consumers with a brand in a personal matter on their own terms, Saenz said. What’s more, at a time when consumers have their own media channels in Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, it’s a natural way to extend reach and drive the all-powerful personal stamp of approval for a brand, Singh said. Wasserman asked if crowdsourcing – with its focus on the wisdom of crowds — lessens the need for ad agencies and marketing skills. Knight replied that great creative agencies makes strong emotional connections between consumers and brands, so the best ones will be able to use crowsourcing as a tool to make even better marketing.

Insights about InnovationA “Fireside chat” featuring Mahalo.com CEO and Founder Jason Calacanis interviewing Yammer Founder and CEO David Sacks (also the former Chief Operating Officer of PayPal).  This wide-ranging discussion covered Sacks’ views on the four big players in tech and what he looks for when funding a startup.

Sacks said he only wants to invest in companies that will overhaul an industry – his latest investment, Houzz, is an app for remodeling homes – and that the first question he asks of new products is: does it promote a behavior I can see consumers engaging in?  When asked about copycat products and services in the tech world, he quoted the famous Picasso saying “Good artists borrow. Great artists steal,” and said that one of the greatest flaws in a product managers is excessive pride.

And lastly, a little Page Six-style gossip: SXSWi is teeming with celebrities.  So far, our team has spotted New Girl’s Jake Johannsen, Two and a Half Men’s Chuck Lorre, Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley, Matthew Just Keep Livin’ McConaughey and one of this DGC’ers personal heroes: David Carr of the New York Times. Signing off for now …

A Social Media Life – Through the Lens of Vizify

Earlier in the year, we were introduced to Vizify, a content aggregator that visualizes who you are through the content you share on your social networks.

Seems simple enough – with so many social platforms for you to express yourself, and with digital data doubling every two years, this tool lets people easily “see” the highlights.

We were reminded of Vizify through Twitter’s 2012 Year in Review, a comprehensive look back at what made news through the year.  The two tech companies have worked together to create a “Your Year on Twitter” feature, showcasing the words we tweeted the most. Some of the highlights won’t surprise you – mine certainly didn’t – but what was interesting to see was the volume with which things were tweeted within a specific time.

Below is a snapshot of @digennaro’s twitter through 2012.

While most of our words fit within our vertical, notice how all of our 63 #CannesLions tweets were within the month surrounding the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity?

Facebook also rounded up their biggest trends – and yours – in one handy place, with their “2012 Year In Review” while Google showed us what the 10 most Google’d things of 2012 were (cue guilty curiosities about Whitney Houston, Gangnam Style and Kate Middleton).

While we at DGC enjoyed taking this look back at our social chatter (and are upset at the lack of “Call Me Maybe” search queries!), we also used this opportunity to become more familiar with Vizify for our personal presences.

We like Vizify’s capabilities but believe some of the features in terms of images and quotes could use some tweaking before it becomes the “digital version” of yourself.

What do you think? Try it out for yourself and let us know in the comments!

Tech Talk: The Magical, Mystical, Wonderful World of Cloud

The cloud’s popularity has been gaining momentum as businesses continue to need ways to store, process and access information quickly. And as its reputation grows, we at DGC have wondered what effect the cloud has had—and will continue to have—on the public relations industry as a whole.

It may surprise you to learn that the cloud isn’t exactly a new concept for PR. Since the introduction of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter (both of which are cloud-based platforms—read the text box for more info!), we’ve been using these mediums to help leverage different forms of communication for both clients and consumers, including posts, blogs, tweets and everything in between. These tools allow us to create and disseminate clients’ media exposure quickly, efficiently and in real-time.

Social media sites aren’t the only cloud-based platforms the industry is using. Tools like Google Analytics help to gauge whether a clients’ website has incurred increased traffic during a news or product announcement. Other tools such as bitly—a URL shortening service—enable us to track a particular website’s stats through click-throughs. And as any PR professional will tell you, this kind of information is crucial to evaluating and reevaluating continued public relations efforts. 

The very nature of using cloud-based platforms helps to keep us—and our clients—informed during PR campaigns. In fact, we’re continually made aware of the kind of exposure our initiatives have had in the viral community (the public likes to voice its opinion, you know). And, cloud-based platforms allow us to respond to positive commentary or correct negative backlash.

As the PR industry continues to move forward, one thing’s for sure—identifying and using cloud-based platforms helps to increase clients’ reach and exposure. So, as I like to say: go, run, do…and get on the cloud!

Have you used the cloud in any of your PR initiatives? Let us know in the comments below.

Tech Talk: News Consumption in a Twitter, Facebook World

Where do you get your news? According to the recently released Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism’s State of the New Media in 2012 report, not Facebook or Twitter. While Facebook has made a concerted effort to expand its relationship with journalists and new organizations through Social Reader and Twitter has always been seen as a mini “newsfeed,” the numbers tell a different story.

The study determined that only 9% of digital news consumers regularly get their news from these social networks while 36% of people go directly to the publication’s website, 32% use search engines to get news and 29% use a news organizer site or app. These numbers rise to 52% when you look at people who “sometimes” get news from Facebook and Twitter – but that’s still drastically lower than the 92% who sometimes go directly to news sites and the 85% that use search.

Digging deeper into Pew’s State of the News Media, we learn that for the users who do get news from social channels, Facebook and Twitter function differently. On Facebook, for example, 70% of the news people read were from family, 13% from news organizations and 10% from non-news organizations that suggested a story to read. On the other hand, people on Twitter get 27% of news from organizations, 18% from non-news organizations and only 36% from family and friends.

While we had a bit of sticker shock at how low these numbers were, there is no denying that Facebook and Twitter should still be a part of your news distribution strategy. You just have to ensure that you’re using the channels to your advantage and sharing the news in a way that your audiences will take notice. As we shared last year, when you’re creating content for your social community you have to play to specific social audiences and should speak with an authentic voice, sharing relevant news and unique visuals to tell your brand’s story. Take the time to study how your audiences react to different posts and types of news. Experiment with continued personalization, visuals and editorializing of content to see how it boosts engagement across specific channels, then give them more of what works.

In time, we predict that there will continue to be an increase in the consumption of news from news sources across social media communities. But it’s clearly not there yet. So in the meantime, remember the power of personal connections. Don’t be afraid to ask for action from friends, family, colleagues and industry connections to spread the news and involve them in your company’s story.

The New Black? How Digital Ed Is Everything

Allison Kent-Smith, Director of Digital Development at Goodby, Silverstein and Partners

Day #3 got off to an early start (after a not so early night!) as we headed to see Goodby’s own Allison Kent-Smith, Director of Digital Development and resident educational evangelist for her panel, The New Black? How Digital Ed Is Everything. She was joined by Glenn Cole of 72andSunny, Matthew Brimer of the General Assembly and Giselle Schmitz of Facebook to discuss the importance of education in the advertising and marketing industries. Moderated by Lori Kent, the panelist shared their perspectives on the need to increase education and digital training as the industry evolves.

Matthew Brimer stated the importance of having a well-rounded skill set, pointing out the internet isn’t new and it’s surprising more people aren’t more familiar with using it effectively. Comparing the internet to a much older invention—electricity—he stated, “imagine if you had an electricity department at your company. Or said, I’m going to start a company, and we’re going to use electricity.” The internet has become almost as commonplace place as electricity, and there is a clear value in teaching your employees how to master it.

Digital education doesn’t just increase the employee’s value; it also benefits the company or agency as a whole. Implementing program that ups the level of talent within an agency allows it to better serve their clients. Goodby’s Ed Program (developed by Allison) takes it a step further by offering courses outside the agency to clients making them a more valuable partner and resource, which in turn can lead of business growth and positive PR—and who doesn’t like positive PR?

For more from Allison, you can check out her Fast Company article:  We’re All Technologists Now: 6 Steps To Retraining And Reinventing Your Creative Talent.

We caught up with Allison and moderator Lori Kent after the panel for a few more insights on the importance of Digital Ed, which you can view here as well:

 

 

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